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The Politics of Torture: A TIFF Review of ‘The Report’

September 19, 2019Ben MK

With the lives of millions of its citizens at stake, how far will the US government go in the name of national security? As Adam Driver's character discovers in The Report, sometimes we can get so fixated on stopping evil that we don't realize the evil that we are ourselves are committing.

The year is 2003, and when an idealistic US Select Committee on Intelligence staffer named Daniel J. Jones (Driver) is asked by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to look into the destruction of sensitive CIA audio recordings, little does he realize that the assignment will consume the next 6 years of his life. That's exactly what happens, however, as Dan and his small team find themselves stationed in a highly secure, underground CIA facility, meticulously pouring over millions upon millions of pages of documentation concerning the acts of torture committed against 119 prisoners in the wake of 9/11. The result would be a nearly 7,000-page report detailing the effectiveness (or gross lack thereof) of the CIA's "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" — an eye-opening and ultimately damning report that wouldn't be allowed to see the light of day until 2015.

Jumping back and forth between key moments within this 12-year time span, writer/director Scott Z. Burns' account of one of the darkest chapters in US history is as visceral and engaging as political thrillers get. But what makes The Report truly essential viewing are the real-life lessons to be learned — for those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The Report makes its international premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 0 min.

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